Coccyzus erythropthalmus - (Wilson, 1811)
Black-billed Cuckoo
Other English Common Names: black-billed cuckoo
Other Common Names: Papa-Lagarta-de-Olho-Vermelho
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Coccyzus erythropthalmus (A. Wilson, 1811) (TSN 177834)
French Common Names: coulicou à bec noir
Spanish Common Names: Cuclillo Pico Negro
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103435
Element Code: ABNRB02010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Other Birds
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Cuculiformes Cuculidae Coccyzus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online:
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 07Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 27Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large range but low numbers. Evidently has declined in central North America, but rangewide trend based on BBS data is stable.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B (19Mar1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (29Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S1B), Arkansas (S1B), Colorado (S2B), Connecticut (S4B), Delaware (S1B), District of Columbia (S1S2N), Florida (SNA), Georgia (S3?), Illinois (S4), Indiana (S4B), Iowa (S3B), Kansas (S3B), Kentucky (S3S4B), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (S4S5B), Maryland (S4B), Massachusetts (S4B,S4N), Michigan (S4), Minnesota (SNRB), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNRB), Montana (S3B), Nebraska (S3), New Hampshire (S4B), New Jersey (S3B), New York (S5B), North Carolina (S2B), North Dakota (SNRB), Ohio (S5), Oklahoma (S1B), Pennsylvania (S5B), Rhode Island (S5B,S5N), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (S4B), Tennessee (S2B), Texas (S3), Vermont (S5B), Virginia (S4B), West Virginia (S2B), Wisconsin (S4B), Wyoming (S2)
Canada Alberta (SU), Manitoba (S3S4B), New Brunswick (S3B,S3M), Nova Scotia (S3B), Ontario (S5B), Prince Edward Island (S3B), Quebec (S4), Saskatchewan (S5B)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Candidate (Low) (26Jan2015)
IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: east-central and southeastern Alberta east to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, south, at least locally, to Montana, southeastern Wyoming, eastern Colorado, north-central Texas, northern Alabama, and the Carolinas (AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: northern Venezuela and northern Colombia south to central Bolivia (AOU 1998). MIGRATION: southeastern United States, Bermuda, Mexico (mostly Gulf-Caribbean lowlands), and Middle America (AOU 1998).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Appears to presently occur within entire historic breeding range in North America. It is estimated that the majority of occurrences in breeding range are good to excellent. Quality of occurrences along migratory routes and in winter range is unknown.

Population Size: 10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Large range but low numbers; no reliable population estimate. Characterized as "uncommon to fairly common" with a relative abundance in North America of 0.62 (NGS 1987, Sauer et al. 1996).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Loss and degradation of riparian habitats may be the greatest threat to the species in arid areas; water diversion, flood control projects, ground water pumping, livestock grazing, and urbanization are all factors. Tropical deforestation may be a significant threat in winter range. As a nocturnal migrant, faces hazards such as collisions with TV towers and other structures (del Hoyo et al. 1997).

Short-term Trend Comments: North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data for 1966-1995 indicate a nonsignificant average annual decrease of 1%. The more recent period, 1980-1995, indicates a significant average annual decrease of 3.5% overall, including a significant annual decline of 11.1% in the western region between 1980-1995 (Sauer et al. 1996, Sauer and Droege 1992).

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: east-central and southeastern Alberta east to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, south, at least locally, to Montana, southeastern Wyoming, eastern Colorado, north-central Texas, northern Alabama, and the Carolinas (AOU 1998). NON-BREEDING: northern Venezuela and northern Colombia south to central Bolivia (AOU 1998). MIGRATION: southeastern United States, Bermuda, Mexico (mostly Gulf-Caribbean lowlands), and Middle America (AOU 1998).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, MB, NB, NS, ON, PE, QC, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
DE Kent (10001), New Castle (10003), Sussex (10005)
ID Ada (16001)*, Adams (16003), Bannock (16005)*, Cassia (16031), Jefferson (16051)
IL Cook (17031), Crawford (17033)*, DuPage (17043), Fayette (17051)*, Jasper (17079)*, Kankakee (17091), Lake (17097), Lawrence (17101)*, Lee (17103), Mchenry (17111), Monroe (17133), Piatt (17147), Winnebago (17201), Woodford (17203)
MT Big Horn (30003), Cascade (30013), Chouteau (30015), Custer (30017), Dawson (30021), Fallon (30025), Fergus (30027), Garfield (30033), McCone (30055), Musselshell (30065), Petroleum (30069), Phillips (30071), Powder River (30075), Prairie (30079), Richland (30083), Roosevelt (30085), Rosebud (30087), Stillwater (30095), Treasure (30103), Valley (30105), Wibaux (30109), Yellowstone (30111)
NC Ashe (37009), Avery (37011), Buncombe (37021), Burke (37023), Caldwell (37027), Haywood (37087), Henderson (37089), Jackson (37099), Macon (37113), McDowell (37111), Mitchell (37121), Transylvania (37175)*, Watauga (37189), Yancey (37199)
NE Brown (31017), Holt (31089), Keya Paha (31103)
NJ Atlantic (34001), Bergen (34003), Burlington (34005), Camden (34007), Cape May (34009), Cumberland (34011), Hunterdon (34019), Monmouth (34025), Morris (34027), Ocean (34029), Passaic (34031), Salem (34033), Somerset (34035), Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Campbell (56005), Carbon (56007), Converse (56009), Crook (56011), Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Hot Springs (56017), Johnson (56019), Laramie (56021), Natrona (56025), Platte (56031), Sheridan (56033), Sublette (56035), Teton (56039), Washakie (56043), Weston (56045)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
02 Rondout (02020007)+, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+, Raritan (02030105)+, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Crosswicks-Neshaminy (02040201)+, Lower Delaware (02040202)+, Brandywine-Christina (02040205)+, Cohansey-Maurice (02040206)+, Broadkill-Smyrna (02040207)+, Mullica-Toms (02040301)+, Great Egg Harbor (02040302)+, Chincoteague (02040303)+, Western Lower Delmarva (02080109)+
03 Upper Catawba (03050101)+
04 Pike-Root (04040002)+
05 Upper New (05050001)+, Embarras (05120112)+*, Little Wabash (05120114)+*
06 Watauga (06010103)+, Upper French Broad (06010105)+, Pigeon (06010106)+, Nolichucky (06010108)+, Upper Little Tennessee (06010202)+, Tuckasegee (06010203)+
07 Lower Rock (07090005)+, Iroquois (07120002)+, Des Plaines (07120004)+, Upper Fox (07120006)+, Lower Fox (07120007)+, Mackinaw (07130004)+, Upper Sangamon (07130006)+, Cahokia-Joachim (07140101)+, Middle Kaskaskia (07140202)+*
10 Upper Missouri-Dearborn (10030102)+, Belt (10030105)+, Fort Peck Reservoir (10040104)+, Big Dry (10040105)+, Middle Musselshell (10040202)+, Flatwillow (10040203)+, Lower Milk (10050012)+, Porcupine (10050016)+, Prarie Elk-Wolf (10060001)+, Redwater (10060002)+, Charlie-Little Muddy (10060005)+, Yellowstone Headwaters (10070001)+*, Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin (10070004)+, Stillwater (10070005)+, Upper Yellowstone-Pompeys Pillar (10070007)+, Upper Wind (10080001)+, Popo Agie (10080003)+, Upper Bighorn (10080007)+, Nowood (10080008)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Big Horn Lake (10080010)+, Shoshone (10080014)+, Little Bighorn (10080016)+, Upper Tongue (10090101)+, Lower Tongue (10090102)+, Middle Fork Powder (10090201)+, Upper Powder (10090202)+, Crazy Woman (10090205)+, Clear (10090206)+, Middle Powder (10090207)+, Little Powder (10090208)+, Lower Yellowstone-Sunday (10100001)+, Big Porcupine (10100002)+, Lower Yellowstone (10100004)+, Upper Little Missouri (10110201)+, Beaver (10110204)+, Upper Belle Fourche (10120201)+, Redwater (10120203)+, Middle Niobrara (10150004)+, Lower Niobrara (10150007)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Glendo Reservoir (10180008)+, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+, Upper Laramie (10180010)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+, Horse (10180012)+*, Upper Lodgepole (10190015)+
17 Snake headwaters (17040101)+, Gros Ventre (17040102)+, Portneuf (17040208)+*, Goose (17040211)+, Upper Snake-Rock (17040212)+, Beaver-Camas (17040214)+, Boise-Mores (17050112)+*, Weiser (17050124)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: A bird (cuckoo).
General Description: A 31-cm-long bird with a stout slightly decurved bill, zygodactyl feet, grayish-brown dorsum, white venter (except tail), and a long tail that is patterned on the underside in gray with white feather tips; bill usually is all dark, may show yellow at base of lower mandible; reddish eye ring; in juveniles, the undertail is whiter, the eye ring is buffy, the pale underparts may have a buffy tinge, and there may be some rusty-brown color on the outer wing (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: Differs from the yellow-billed cuckoo (COCCYZUS AMERICANUS) in lacking rufous primaries and lacking an extensively yellow lower mandible.
Reproduction Comments: A facultative brood parasite; occasionally lays eggs in the nest of Yellow-billed Cuckoo (COCCYZUS AMERICANUS) and at least ten other passerine species (Bent 1940, Harrison 1979, Hughes 1997, Thomas 1995). Lays clutch of two to five (usually two to three) eggs, mostly May-July. Incubation about 14 days by both parents. Young hatch at intervals, differ in size, and are tended by both parents. Adults bring insects carried in throat pouch and disgorge into mouth of nestlings. Chicks climb on branches at 7-9 days, fly at 21-24 days. Nesting initiation dates and clutch size may be influenced by food availability (Sealy 1978). A small sample of observed nests indicate a nesting success rate of 55 percent and chick survival of 71 percent (Spencer 1943).
Ecology Comments: Breeding densities vary considerably across years, in apparent response to caterpillar outbreaks (Bent 1940, del Hoyo et al. 1997). In winter joins mixed-species feeding flocks (Chipley 1976, del Hoyo et al. 1997).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: N
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: A nocturnal neotropical migrant. Migrates regularly through the southeastern United States; irregularly through Mexico and Middle America; and casually west to the Pacific region (AOU 1983). An uncommon transient migrant through Oaxaca, Mexico (Binford 1989). Migrates through Costa Rica late September to early November and April to early May as an uncommon to very rare migrant in lowlands, occasional in Valle Central (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Spring migration records in Florida, April to May; autumn migrants late August to late October. Also a transatlantic vagrant in autumn to western Europe (del Hoyo et al 1997). Adult males arrive earlier than females in spring; adults migrate earlier than juveniles in fall (Herrick 1910).
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Old field, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Habitat Comments: BREEDING: Assigned to "eastern forest" biogeographical classification by Pyle et al. (1994). Forest edge and open woodland, both deciduous and coniferous, with dense deciduous thickets (AOU 1998). Found in extensive tracts of dry upland woods where it uses the midstory canopy and the overstory canopy for most activities (Legrand and Hamel 1980). High-ground forest, open woodland, thickets, willow (SALIX spp.), alder (ALNUS spp.), aspen (POPULUS spp.), vines (del Hoyo et al. 1997). In northern plains also utilizes prairie shrub thickets and shelterbelts at lower elevations (Dobkin 1994). In Colorado, most observations in urban forests characterized by introduced tree species. Next most common sightings occur in riparian vegetation dominated by cottonwoods (POPULUS spp.) and boxelders (BISON-M 1997).

Nests in groves of trees, forest edges, moist thickets, overgrown pastures; in deciduous or evergreen tree or shrub. Is a low or ground nesting species (Peterjohn et al. 1995). Nest an open cup, average 1.8 meters above ground, but at times almost on the ground and concealed by tall herbage (Bent 1940, Harrison 1978, Spencer 1943).

NON-BREEDING: During migration occurs from tropical evergreen forest to arid subtropical scrub. In New Mexico occurs where stream conditions provide sufficient permanent moisture for the emergent plants or for a narrow band of deciduous trees and shrubs; at low elevation characterized by cottonwood and sycamore (PLATANUS spp.), at mid-elevations by white alder (ALNUS RHOMBIFOLIA) and bigleaf maple (ACER MACROPHYLLUS), and at high elevations by willow (DeGraaf et al. 1991). In Costa Rica, in second growth, scrubby areas, semi-open, forest edge (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Scrub (arid or humid) as well as forest, although most frequently in lowland humid regions (AOU 1998). Generally found from lowlands up to 2000 meters (del Hoyo et al. 1997). Chipley (1976) observed species in remnant subtropical oak woodland at 1800 meters in Colombia.

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Feeds primarily by gleaning insects from leaves of trees and shrubs (Bent 1940, Terres 1980). Makes short sallies or running, hopping dashes to capture prey items (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Eats insects, mainly caterpillars; also katydids, saw-flies, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, spiders; rarely frogs, small fish, eggs of other birds; berries especially in autumn (Agro 1994, Sealy 1994, Stiles and Skutch 1989, del Hoyo et al. 1997). May be particularly dependent upon forest tent caterpillars (MALACOSOMA DISSTRIA; Sealy 1978).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Length: 31 centimeters
Weight: 51 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: Formerly stable but experiencing significant decreases since 1980, particularly in West. Populations relatively widespread but deserves attention for its association with riparian and mature woodland habitats. May be of local concern in arid regions where riparian habitats are degraded or eliminated by land use practices.
Species Impacts: May help control outbreaks of caterpillar pests (Bent 1940). May locally impact breeding success of host species through brood parasitism.
Restoration Potential: In west where declines are most pronounced and significant, may respond to restoration of riparian forest and shrub habitats, particularly in arid areas. May also benefit from shelterbelts, urban forests, and other artificial habitats.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Optimum patch size and aspects of landscape relationship are unknown, but one study suggests that the species is most likely to be found breeding in forest stands of more than 4 hectares in size (Forman et al. 1976). Elsewhere extensive forest stands may be preferred (Legrand and Hamel 1980). In arid and semi-arid portions of its range may be particularly dependent upon riparian forest and shrubby understories for breeding sites and travel corridors.
Management Requirements: Maturation of second growth deciduous and evergreen forests in central and eastern breeding range may enhance habitat quality and increase habitat availability. Management which maintains large trees, wildlife corridors, hedgerows, woodlots, and controls grazing by domestic livestock may be beneficial. Creating water impoundments or reducing perennial stream flow may degrade critical riparian habitats (SIL 1999). Appears to select dense nesting cover at low-canopy levels suggesting a positive response to restrictive grazing regimes. Because of food preference for caterpillars and other large insects, chemical or other control of undesirable insect species or related plants may be adverse.
Monitoring Requirements: In breeding season often detected by song during day or night.
Management Research Needs: Largely unstudied. More information needed on breeding and foraging ecology, and extent of wintering range and winter habitat parameters. Studies on the relative role of tropical deforestation compared with temperate habitat fragmentation are needed, as is response to various fire, logging, and grazing regimes. As a brood parasite, relationship to host species needs better understanding. Sensitivity to most pesticides unknown, but needs further study because of reportedly strong reproductive response to irruptive insect populations.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Cuckoos and Anis

Use Class: Breeding
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical nesting, or current and likely recurring nesting, in a particular location.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Probable significant dispersal and associated high potential for gene flow among widely separated populations of birds make it difficult to circumscribe occurrences on the basis of meaningful population units without occurrences becoming too large. Hence, a moderate, standardized separation distance has been adopted for this group; it should yield occurrences that are not too spatially expansive while also accounting for the likelihood of gene flow among populations within a few kilometers of each other.

Date: 23Jul2004
Author: Hammerson, G.

Use Class: Nonmigratory
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a particular location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals in or near appropriate habitat.

These occurrence specifications are used for nonmigratory ani populations.

Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance is arbitrary and not intended to result in occurrences that represent distinct populations or metapopulations, which would be quite large in areal extent. Instead, the separation distance attempts to balance the mobility of these birds against the need for occurrences of reasonable size for conservation purposes.
Date: 23Jul2004
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 26Jan2000
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Deeble, B.; revisions by D.W. Mehlman
Management Information Edition Date: 02Jan2000
Management Information Edition Author: DEEBLE, B.; REVISIONS BY M. KOENEN AND D.W. MEHLMAN
Management Information Acknowledgments: Funding for the preparation of this abstract was made possible by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 10Apr1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): HAMMERSON, G.

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